Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford

Stimulus Generalization and Discrimination

  • Androulla Ioannou
  • Xenia Anastassiou-HadjicharalambousEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_1030-1


Stimulus generalization refers to a set of stimuli sharing similar properties with the original stimulus that provoked a response. Stimulus discrimination is the ability of an organism to respond only to the original stimulus, and not to other similar stimuli.


The concepts of stimulus generalization and stimulus discrimination are encountered within the context of associative and non-associative learning.

Differentiation of Stimulus Generalization and Stimulus Discrimination Concepts

Both concepts are inherent mechanisms in the processes of associative and non-associative learning, and for both processes to take place, it is essential that a stimulus model should be stored in memory in order for comparisons with new stimuli to take place.

To begin with, generalization occurs when an organism produces the same response to different stimuli. Stimuli who exhibit analogous properties to the original are more likely to provoke a response: habituation. There could be...

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  1. Petrinovich, L., & Widaman, F. K. (1984). An evaluation of statistical strategies to analyze repeated-measures data. In H. Peeke (Ed.), Habituation, sensitization, and behavior (pp. 156–200). Orlando: Academic.Google Scholar
  2. Teyler T. J., Chiaia N., DiScenna P., Roemer R. A. (1984). Habituation of Central Nervous System Evoked Potentials: Intrinsic Habituation Examined in Neocortex, Allocortex, and Mesencephalon. In Peeke, H. (Ed.). Habituation, sensitization, and behavior. (pp. 251–283). Academic Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  3. Thompson, R. F., & Spencer, W. A. (1966). Habituation: A model phenomenon for the study of neuronal substrates of behavior. Psychological Review, 73, 16–43.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Androulla Ioannou
    • 1
  • Xenia Anastassiou-Hadjicharalambous
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.University of NicosiaNicosiaCyprus

Section editors and affiliations

  • Menelaos Apostolou
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NicosiaNicosiaCyprus